Man with Down syndrome won’t return to local Wendy’s after being fired, family says

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A Stanley family said their loved one will not be going back to work at their local Wendy’s. Dennis Peek was fired without notice after spending more than two decades at the job, according to his family.

Peek has Down syndrome and was planning to retire soon from Wendy’s. But his family said Wendy’s fired him because “he wasn’t able to do his job like a normal person.”

His family then advocated for him after they found out he was fired without receiving a notice.

“I’m out here because I need to be his voice for the way he was treated,” said his sister, Cona Turner.

Turner told Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz that she simply does not know what to do after finding out Wednesday her younger brother was fired from his position at Wendy’s after almost 22 years.

“I asked why and I was told he could not perform his duties,” she said.

It was a heartbreaking discovery that she didn’t want her kind-hearted brother to face.

“He don’t understand and we can’t tell him he was terminated. We have not told him and we won’t tell him,” Turner said.

After Turner posted her frustrations to Facebook, the word spread fast. On Thursday morning, she said she received a call from Carolina Restaurant Group, which owns and operates the Wendy’s, saying Peek could be reinstated next week.

“We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for our employees and our customers. This was an unfortunate mistake and lapse in protocol; we are in touch with the employee’s family, and we are looking forward to welcoming him back to work in the restaurant,” Carolina Restaurant Group said in a statement.

Channel 9 does not know why Peek was fired, but attorney Christopher Hodgson with Disability Rights North Carolina said there are rights in the workplace for those with disabilities.

“It turns into discrimination, especially when somebody’s making generalizations about someone’s disabilities and stereotypes about what they can and can’t do, when it’s no longer based on what they’re doing, but fears around their own limitations,” Hodgson said.

Peek is described as a fun-loving guy who always has a smile on his face. While he is still unaware of the situation around him, he can’t stop talking about the one thing he is looking forward to the most: retirement.

After taking several days to make a decision, his family said he will not be returning. His family said they will be moving forward with an early retirement party.

“I feel in my heart at this point, I should do what is best for my brother,” Turner said in a Facebook post.

Peek’s family said they are looking to host the party at the beginning of November and that the entire community will be invited.

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Hannah Goetz

Hannah Goetz, wsoctv.com

Hannah is a reporter for WSOC-TV.